Send us your feedback

Thank you for your feedback. An email has been sent to the ESRC support team.

An error occured whilst sending your feedback. Please review the problems below.

The research catalogue is an archive of ESRC-funded grants and outputs. Links, files and other content will no longer be maintained or updated after April 2014.

An examination of the online romance scam

Grant reference: RES-000-22-4022

« View grant details

Conference paper/presentation details

The risk of romanticism : psychological characteristics of online romance scam victims
In online dating romance scams, criminals initiate fake relationships through online dating or social networking sites, then financially defraud their victims. This study explored whether personality characteristics or romantic attitudes affected risk of victimisation or severity of outcomes. Design: A quasi-experimental design compared people who had or had not fallen victim to romance scams in two distinct samples. In Study 1, 853 respondents were recruited via an online dating company. They completed online measures of constructs including Romantic Beliefs, Sensation Seeking, Loneliness and the Big 5, and reported their experiences of romance scams. In Study 2, 397 respondents recruited via a romance scam support website completed the same measures. Across both studies, 470 people were scam victims and 239 of these had lost money. Of the constructs measured, only Romantic Beliefs distinguished victim and non-victim groups. Specifically, high scores on the romantic belief of Idealisation were associated with likelihood of being a victim. Victims experienced significant emotional distress as well as financial losses, with even respondents who had not lost money reporting significant distress. While women were typically more affected, some men also reported very high levels of distress. Among male financial victims, those with higher Neuroticism scores were most affected. Level of emotional distress was associated with high Neuroticism, and with high Loneliness and low Openness to Experience among victims not losing money. Higher Romantic Beliefs (especially idealisation of romantic partners) may be linked to victimisation. A number of variables are associated with the effects of victimisation, and victims may experience significant emotional effects. The findings have implications for the feasibility of crime-prevention measures based on victim characteristics, and for treatment of victims by law enforcement and other stakeholders.

Primary contributor

Author Tom Buchanan

Additional contributors

Co-author Monica Whitty

Additional details

18 April 2012
British Psychological Society annual conference
18 April 2012